Every year, it’s a new feeling, like my body resigns to never feel true, persistent warmth again. For the first time in 2018, our apartment smells fresh like potable soil and Spring, the windows wide open all night, the cats going mad at the screens, the air of brighter times upon us. I let out a sigh of relief. I feel violently happy.
I think about two days prior: my partner comes home with a pizza box. Scribbled atop, the words “Happy 1/2 Birthday.” I open it: half a pizza. I gleam.
I think about five years prior: I walk into the Bloor Cinema for my shift, sunglasses on, completely dejected from discovering I’d been online dating a sociopath. A blank card and pen in hand, meant to cheer me up. It had a cat on it. “Could you sign my half birthday card?” I asked my coworkers, and then the Hot Docs volunteers, to which my partner Brian, whom I’d never met, was one.
I think about choices and the time my mom told me two Thanksgivings ago that her choices don’t affect anyone. Don’t tell me this because I know it’s not true.
Generally, I gauge the start of summer when I see that our jar of coconut oil has completely melted simply by sitting in the cupboard. Tropical weather has found us more than a month before the first of summer. Cut-offs and tank tops, shades and short dresses. Sweaty backs, big smiles, general pleasantries from most people. Suddenly, Vitamin D is a drug we don’t have to remember to take. I rush to get a pedicure in an effort to feel less ashamed about my pasty, winter body; a trivial, commodified effort to feel minutely more confident about the skin I bare and about how hard I’m starting to push back about — about everything. I pick the most neon pink I can find so that something other than my attitude stands out. And looks nice.
I quit social media for two and a half weeks and I wake up every day a week in wondering why the hell it is still May. “What — the fu — ” are the first words my partner hears me say more than one morning this month.
“Cherish this time, Andrea.” My mother’s voice haunts me. It’s echoing in my head. She used to say this phrase every other weekend when I was in high school. Sitting there, squinting under the weight of beer and BBQ, her friends nodding zealously alongside her. “It going to go by so. fast.”
I hated hearing this over and over again, mostly because I hated high school. I hated the rules, the hierarchy, the uniforms, the bullying, the expectations, and I especially hated any authoritarian who didn’t treat my peers and I like people. I couldn’t wait to feel like I had some autonomy. I couldn’t wait to get out. I also couldn’t fathom what my mother meant by time moving any quicker than a turtle in molasses because time moved so slowly to me.
Thirteen years later I take away the part of my day that overwhelms me the most, applies the most pressure, challenges my every choice, and forces me to stop thinking and do as I’m told and I feel like I’m fifteen scribbling poetry into a .txt file on my windows 98 desktop computer wondering what my next step is; how I’m going to conquer the world. I feel invincible.
I write an article on what it is like to quit social media and then I reengage with social media to post it. That night I find myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram instead of reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m Not Longer Talking to White People About Race”; a book I’d eagerly waited months for and is unrenewable due to the long library holds list. Social media is the devil.
I realize there is another element of my present life that mirrors my adolescence: reading.
Last year, I spend a handful of hours with other writers and they re-ignite the flame in me that lit my path when I embarked on it in my childhood: writing.
Everything that happened before I turned 30 is not as important as everything that has happened to me this year. I’ve learned more — and used it beneficially — than I have my whole life. The divorce, the abuse, the lost friends, the late nights in high school, the punk shows, the pot, the parties, the cities I tried to settle in, the long distance phone calls, the breakups, the bad decisions, and the good ones. None of that matters as much as this: realizing that the point of life is to solve the problems that present themselves, and that positive feelings are the reward for doing so; that if you’re searching for happiness it’s because you think it is something you already lack.
Back in February, I bought a single ticket to see one of my favourite bands at Club Phoenix. Bayside. I have never done this in my adult life — bought a single ticket to a concert. A week before the show, I sat on a blanket in Christie Pitts melting like ice cream when I considered asking my friend Steph to join me. I didn’t want to burden her, so I tried to play it lightly.
“Do you want to come to a show on Saturday?” A minuscule pause. “It’s to see this band I love, Bayside. You might like them.” Hardly an in breathe. “They’re playing with New Found Glory. But Bayside is — ” I inhale through my nose, “pretty — great.” She says yes. I am astounded at two things:
- That she said yes, and
- That, given how often I used to go to shows (1–6 times a week), that I have zero people in this city to go to shows with.
I feel old and young all at once.
A few days later I contract a viral chest infection and start to lose my voice. I wonder what karma this is. I consume ginger, astragalus, and oil of oregano like my life depends on it. I also meditate. I rarely meditate.
It’s Saturday night. I’m pent up, bouncing around the back of Club Phoenix like I’m healthy. I’m nervous, excited, and trying to suppress the fact that I wish there were couches everywhere. I feel like I’m acting weird. I confess I have this belief that I am fabulously forgettable. It’s true. I think that the majority of people I meet will forget about me if I don’t see them regularly.
I think I am so forgettable that if I see someone on the street that I know I’ve met, I immediately assume they have no idea who I am, so when they say hi — or even better, “Hi Andrea” (my name) — I am wrecked. I’m in such shock that they remember who I am, that I act like a total idiot. It’s very embarrassing for two reasons:
- That I act like a total idiot and they have no idea it’s because I firmly assured myself there was no way they would remember me and
- That I doubted their ability to recall people and faces and names so staunchly.
I tell this to Steph. She smiles at me, assures me I have such outgoing energy that I leave an impact on people and I try to believe her but I think that if she and I didn’t speak for five years, she would unlikely think of me. I mean, why would she?
An hour later she’s offering to hold my bag full of kleenex as I throw my body into a hand full other people who also know the lyrics to Bayside’s early albums, a set list extraordinaire. My 30-year-old adolescent emo heart swells as I whisper-serenade my neighbours and Steph with lyrics while simultaneously sharing my cold with everyone. Steph tells me later I will probably always remember this night as being amazing and I hope we both do. I also hope she doesn’t get sick.
The following week I am completely voiceless and I learn that my grade school report cards still stand true: Andrea is a great student, but she does not stop talking. I force myself to hole up in my apartment away from all people and cats so that my voice can heal. It is odd, existing only inside yourself.
My back is curved like a banana and, I too, feel nutrient rich. I am sitting on the edge of our coffee table/dining room table/tv stand/footrest. Yes, we eat on it, sit on it, and put our feet on it.
I’m listening to my partner speak to their sibling about growing up, about relationships, perceptions and the world they’ve built for themselves. They have separate stories but linked in that their branches stem from the same home base. They’re relating to one another, adding and providing perspective with honesty and it’s charming. It sounds helpful and nice. I want to be a part of it.
I want to contribute, even though I wasn’t there, in the beginning, with them. I also want to contribute because I like talking, but I listen more before I realize I want to share my beginnings and the ways in which I delineated with someone I feel I am connected to; someone who has seen my life from the same height. I want to feel like there is a person who harbours an ingrained understanding of the most influential people in my life. Instead, I find myself defending these people during their weakest moments because “we have a complicated history. You weren’t there. It’s hard to explain.” For the first time in my adult life, I am present and aware enough to articulate the loneliness that comes with being an only child, and I hope that I can transform this feeling into art before it kills me.
This is my solution to the problem.
I don’t talk for the rest of the night.